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Author Topic: Who are the top 1% income earners in the US  (Read 4907 times)
rob in cal
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« on: October 06, 2010, 05:10:28 pm »
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The top 1% of income earners earn, IIRC about 10% of total US income, and I believe the top 10% earn about 50% total income.  One explanation of how this huge maldistribution of wealth has come about (its more than it was up to the 1970's apparently) is deregulation of the finance industry and lower income taxes.  Has anyone seen a pie chart of where the money of the top
1%, and for that matter the top 10% comes from? I'd be interested to see how much of it comes from ownership of companies, and how much from Wall Street deal making.
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« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2010, 07:32:24 pm »
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I don't know if you could distinguish between honest Wall St. investors and sleazy one.
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« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2010, 07:41:03 pm »
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I'd be interested to see how much of it comes from ownership of companies, and how much from Wall Street deal making.

Looking to make a little scratch working from home, are you?

According to the IRS data, the top one percent (AGI above approx. 400K per year), earns about 23% of the aggregate.  Apparently the peak was in 1928, when the top 1% earned about 24% of the income, then fell off gradually till about 1980 to about 9%, then began to rise, topping 20% by around 2007.  Note that the top 1% also pay about 37% of the taxes.

Wall Street tycoons are the richest of the rich, for your list.  More than a hundred of the richest 400 gringos are in finance or investments, according to Forbes.  And 25 top hedge-fund managers got an average of $1 billion each.  Most of the rest are either Chief executives of successful companies or they got their money the old-fashioned way.

Ain't but one way to be super-rich, hoss.  Or stay super-rich if you got it the old-fashioned way.  You got to get yerself a new god.  Eisner, Walton, Morgan, Rockefeller, Gates, and all the rest are probably hard workers, but then so are you.  And so am I.  Well, maybe they're smart.  But then so are you.  And so am I.  What we don't have is a deep, profound worship of the almighty dollar.  I think you can't fake that or force that.

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« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2010, 07:02:32 am »
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I'd be interested to see how much of it comes from ownership of companies, and how much from Wall Street deal making.

Looking to make a little scratch working from home, are you?

According to the IRS data, the top one percent (AGI above approx. 400K per year), earns about 23% of the aggregate.  Apparently the peak was in 1928, when the top 1% earned about 24% of the income, then fell off gradually till about 1980 to about 9%, then began to rise, topping 20% by around 2007.  Note that the top 1% also pay about 37% of the taxes.

Wall Street tycoons are the richest of the rich, for your list.  More than a hundred of the richest 400 gringos are in finance or investments, according to Forbes.  And 25 top hedge-fund managers got an average of $1 billion each.  Most of the rest are either Chief executives of successful companies or they got their money the old-fashioned way.

Ain't but one way to be super-rich, hoss.  Or stay super-rich if you got it the old-fashioned way.  You got to get yerself a new god.  Eisner, Walton, Morgan, Rockefeller, Gates, and all the rest are probably hard workers, but then so are you.  And so am I.  Well, maybe they're smart.  But then so are you.  And so am I.  What we don't have is a deep, profound worship of the almighty dollar.  I think you can't fake that or force that.

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Wealth comes mostly from two sources in Western countries - either being very good at something people are willing to pay for or by working hard at becoming wealthy. Investment bankers are in the latter group. I'd argue that someone like Bill Gates or Tiger Woods are in the first.

Of course, you can also inherit, so that would be a 3rd.
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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2010, 08:37:05 am »
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Wealth comes mostly from two sources in Western countries - either being very good at something people are willing to pay for or by working hard at becoming wealthy. Investment bankers are in the latter group. I'd argue that someone like Bill Gates or Tiger Woods are in the first.

Almost a perfect restatement of what I posted, but not quite.  (Replace "something" with "acquiring wealth" and you're spot-on.  Every one I know is very good at something, but few are super-rich.)  And according to Forbes, about a third are in the latter group.  The actual IRS data takes more digging.  I was able to quickly come up with dollar-figure delineators for brackets, and some other data, through their website, but the exact number of investment bankers, country music singers, all-star hitters, lottery winners, and chief executive officers doesn't appear on the IRS web page in an obvious way.  It may be there somewhere, but patient linking is not one of those things I'm very good at.

Of course, you can also inherit, so that would be a 3rd.

Of course.  We call that "acquiring wealth the old-fashioned way."
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2010, 09:45:21 am »
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Wealth comes mostly from two sources in Western countries - either being very good at something people are willing to pay for or by working hard at becoming wealthy. Investment bankers are in the latter group. I'd argue that someone like Bill Gates or Tiger Woods are in the first.

Almost a perfect restatement of what I posted, but not quite.  (Replace "something" with "acquiring wealth" and you're spot-on.  Every one I know is very good at something, but few are super-rich.)  And according to Forbes, about a third are in the latter group.  The actual IRS data takes more digging.  I was able to quickly come up with dollar-figure delineators for brackets, and some other data, through their website, but the exact number of investment bankers, country music singers, all-star hitters, lottery winners, and chief executive officers doesn't appear on the IRS web page in an obvious way.  It may be there somewhere, but patient linking is not one of those things I'm very good at.

Of course, you can also inherit, so that would be a 3rd.

Of course.  We call that "acquiring wealth the old-fashioned way."

We're almost in agreement but not quite.

You seem to negate the group of people that are wealthy due to ability. I don't really think Bill Gates was mostly in it for the money, for instance. And the same goes for all those sportsmen, inventors, artists etc.

I thought you were going a bit too far in thinking that those people only differ from you and me in that they want money more. I don't think I have the kind of talent to become that rich, anyway. In a manner of speaking I might think that I'm as smart as some of those people but not in a way that would yield me as much money.
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2010, 11:08:08 am »
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If those people weren't in it for the money, they wouldn't have that money to begin with. They'd be rich maybe, but not obscenely. 
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« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2010, 11:56:02 am »
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We're almost in agreement but not quite.

You seem to negate the group of people that are wealthy due to ability. I don't really think Bill Gates was mostly in it for the money, for instance. And the same goes for all those sportsmen, inventors, artists etc.

I thought you were going a bit too far in thinking that those people only differ from you and me in that they want money more. I don't think I have the kind of talent to become that rich, anyway. In a manner of speaking I might think that I'm as smart as some of those people but not in a way that would yield me as much money.

I'm not saying you can dance like Michael Jackson, or play like Liberace, or steal you ex-roommates ideas like Bill Gates, but there's something you can do very well.  Maybe it's marbles, or jacks, or hop-scotch, or impressions of Richard Nixon, or maybe you can drink every one under the table, but there's probably at least one thing you can do extremely well, maybe better than anyone else in Sweden.  Maybe these aren't marketable skills.  Or maybe you just haven't thought about how to go about marketing them, or even whether they're marketable skills, because you don't have that drive to be rich.  Maybe you're the best card player on the block, but you only play for pennies.  And that's okay.  I don't have that rich man's drive, either.  

Well, anyway, I thought it was an interesting question.  I hadn't thought of it before, but once asked, I too was curious.  So I spent about 20 minutes googling, and what I could find was that it's easy to get the number of rich people (define as 1% or .1% or .01% if you prefer, it's all available from the IRS), and their mean income, and the income cut-off levels that define those groups, and the total amount of taxes that they pay, and the percent they pay, etc.  But it's hard to actually find out exactly how many are bankers, or artists, or whatever.  Maybe it's a privacy thing, but more likely I just gave up because I'm lazy, or didn't really care to know that much.  But I did find a couple of articles from fairly reputable sources making claims.  And from those claims it seems that about a third fall into one category (110+25 out of 400 from a Forbes article of the 400 richest Americans).  I admit my statement about the remainder was ambiguous, and I still don't know about the other 2/3, but I'd imagine that a good many were the type that came into their money the old fashioned way.  But it does take some skill to retain that wealth, once acquired, and, I'd guess, it takes some love of money.  A great deal, in fact.  But you're right, that analysis is just based on my presuppositions and I have no objective way to back it up.  Just a strong hunch.

Here's an interesting, but off-topic, set of data from Forbes in tabular form:

country              percent of wealth owned
                         by top 10% of earners

Switzerland                71.3%                        
United States                69.8%                        
Denmark                        65.0%
France                        61.0%                          
Sweden                        58.6%                        
UK                                56.0%
Canada                        53.0%
Norway                        50.5%                          
Germany                        44.4%                            
Finland                        42.3%

I was looking for some trend to pair it with, such as highest individual rate or percent of workers who are government employees, but I haven't found any monotonically increasing or decreasing numbers to pair with these yet.  
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« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2010, 07:23:54 pm »
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Wealth comes mostly from two sources in Western countries - either being very good at something people are willing to pay for or by working hard at becoming wealthy.

What utter nonsense.  They don't work hard, Gustaf - they are privileged.

Virtually all wealthy people inherited, if not the precise wealth that they currently have, at least the position which enabled them to exact this wealth from the workers.
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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2010, 08:45:35 pm »
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Bill Gates and Paul Allen are smart, no doubt. But one shouldn't neglect the fact that they went to a wealthy, exclusive private school that had a computer. How many schools that weren't universities had a computer at the time? Not very many. They had a pretty big advantage that shouldn't be ignored.
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« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2010, 09:30:14 pm »
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Bill Gates and Paul Allen are smart, no doubt. But one shouldn't neglect the fact that they went to a wealthy, exclusive private school that had a computer. How many schools that weren't universities had a computer at the time? Not very many. They had a pretty big advantage that shouldn't be ignored.

To call position within a power heirarchy a mere 'advantage' is really to understate its importance.  It suggests other possible outcomes than continuity of privilege.
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« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2010, 11:33:21 pm »

Bill Gates and Paul Allen are smart, no doubt. But one shouldn't neglect the fact that they went to a wealthy, exclusive private school that had a computer. How many schools that weren't universities had a computer at the time? Not very many. They had a pretty big advantage that shouldn't be ignored.

To call position within a power heirarchy a mere 'advantage' is really to understate its importance.  It suggests other possible outcomes than continuity of privilege.

So, let me get it straight: there is no social mobility in this capitalist world of ours, everyone born rich and privileged is going to stay rich, everyone born poor is going to stay poor  (professional athletes exempted - they are, clearly, strange). Every rich guy of today is a grandson of a rich guy of yesteryear. Do I get your point right?
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« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2010, 11:38:41 pm »
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So, let me get it straight: there is no social mobility in this capitalist world of ours, everyone born rich and privileged is going to stay rich, everyone born poor is going to stay poor  (professional athletes exempted - they are, clearly, strange). Every rich guy of today is a grandson of a rich guy of yesteryear. Do I get your point right?

No, you don't, ag.  Your attempt at argumentation is ridiculous - rather like saying that if anyone ever escapes, kidnapping should not be a crime.  (or rape, perhaps more apropos)
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« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2010, 03:59:00 am »
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If those people weren't in it for the money, they wouldn't have that money to begin with. They'd be rich maybe, but not obscenely. 

I don't get what you mean by "to begin with" Or maybe you're not referring to something I said?

Opebo has no idea what he's talking about as usual.

Angus: now that you elaborate your point does appear to be a lot stronger. I agree that there is a level where some people with similar skill-sets to, say, me might get rich because they have more of a drive to get money. But I don't think demand is a simple function of marketing. I don't think you can just market anything to get money from it (and before someone links to something, this doesn't mean that someone somewhere hasn't been able to make money by marketing something really stupid - I've studied marketing, I know the examples).

A marketing skill in itself is a kind of skill, regardless. I maintain though that if I'm a great singer or a great football player, etc I won't need a drive for money or any marketing skills to become rich. If I'm merely good at playing marbles it will require a lot more from me if I'm to make money out of it.

Again, I don't think it all comes down to money-love and marketing-skills and that we're all equal in all other aspects.
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« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2010, 09:55:23 am »

So, let me get it straight: there is no social mobility in this capitalist world of ours, everyone born rich and privileged is going to stay rich, everyone born poor is going to stay poor  (professional athletes exempted - they are, clearly, strange). Every rich guy of today is a grandson of a rich guy of yesteryear. Do I get your point right?

No, you don't, ag.  Your attempt at argumentation is ridiculous - rather like saying that if anyone ever escapes, kidnapping should not be a crime.  (or rape, perhaps more apropos)

I haven't even attempted to argue Smiley I am simply trying to figure out what is it that you argue. You know, that's not really easy to get Smiley)
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« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2010, 07:36:07 pm »
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I haven't even attempted to argue Smiley I am simply trying to figure out what is it that you argue. You know, that's not really easy to get Smiley)

It is absolutely standard left-wing stuff, ag.  No innovation here.
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« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2010, 11:19:45 pm »

I haven't even attempted to argue Smiley I am simply trying to figure out what is it that you argue. You know, that's not really easy to get Smiley)

It is absolutely standard left-wing stuff, ag.  No innovation here.

As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as "standard left-wing stuff". You might have something in mind, but, to the best of my knowledge you are asking me to guess, whether flying crocodiles are red or blue in color Smiley)
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« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2010, 12:47:59 am »
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As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as "standard left-wing stuff". You might have something in mind, but, to the best of my knowledge you are asking me to guess, whether flying crocodiles are red or blue in color Smiley)

I'm not going to attempt to rectify your ignorance - try google.
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« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2010, 12:52:36 am »

As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as "standard left-wing stuff". You might have something in mind, but, to the best of my knowledge you are asking me to guess, whether flying crocodiles are red or blue in color Smiley)

I'm not going to attempt to rectify your ignorance - try google.

And it's going to tell me what's the usual color of the flying crocodiles?
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Gustaf
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« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2010, 10:36:35 am »
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As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as "standard left-wing stuff". You might have something in mind, but, to the best of my knowledge you are asking me to guess, whether flying crocodiles are red or blue in color Smiley)

I'm not going to attempt to rectify your ignorance - try google.

You're very testy all of a sudden?
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« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2010, 10:45:46 am »
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Will 'bad people' do as a generalisation? I mean, it wouldn't be entirely fair (a minority presumably are not bad people), but it avoids some of the other issues and seems to be basically accurate.
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« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2010, 12:40:50 pm »
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I don't know if you could distinguish between honest Wall St. investors and sleazy one.
The one doesn't exist (at least not successfully, not for very long)? Though I guess you could have trouble at times distinguishing between a merely sleazy one and a thoroughly crooked one - though as a general guideline, the latter is probably better at thinking outside the box.
I haven't even attempted to argue Smiley I am simply trying to figure out what is it that you argue. You know, that's not really easy to get Smiley)

It is absolutely standard left-wing stuff, ag.  No innovation here.

As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as "standard left-wing stuff". You might have something in mind, but, to the best of my knowledge you are asking me to guess, whether flying crocodiles are red or blue in color Smiley)
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« Reply #22 on: October 11, 2010, 12:42:11 pm »
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Wealth comes mostly from two sources in Western countries - either being very good at something people are willing to pay for or by working hard at becoming wealthy. Investment bankers are in the latter group. I'd argue that someone like Bill Gates or Tiger Woods are in the first.

Almost a perfect restatement of what I posted, but not quite.  (Replace "something" with "acquiring wealth" and you're spot-on.  Every one I know is very good at something, but few are super-rich.)  And according to Forbes, about a third are in the latter group.  The actual IRS data takes more digging.  I was able to quickly come up with dollar-figure delineators for brackets, and some other data, through their website, but the exact number of investment bankers, country music singers, all-star hitters, lottery winners, and chief executive officers doesn't appear on the IRS web page in an obvious way.  It may be there somewhere, but patient linking is not one of those things I'm very good at.

Of course, you can also inherit, so that would be a 3rd.

Of course.  We call that "acquiring wealth the old-fashioned way."
Ah. I thought that phrase meant highway robbery.
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« Reply #23 on: October 11, 2010, 02:38:40 pm »
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The idea that top income earners are necessarily bad people is pretty prejudiced in my opinion. I understand that you can consider the system that gives rise to such inequalities to be rotten but the people themselves are not necessarily bad. I've met many people with very high incomes - some are bad and some are good, but I've certainly seen no indication that they are on average any worse than people who are unemployed or work for low wages.
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« Reply #24 on: October 11, 2010, 02:39:26 pm »
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You're very testy all of a sudden?

Oh, come on, its ag.

But as Al and Lewis point out, these are 'bad' people, and 'robbers'.  I don't care for any objective definition of morality, but it is accurate for the 99% to understand the 1% as their enemies who are robbing them.
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